The mailer came to my mother’s house yesterday- the “slate card” or “dummy voters guide”- The Endorsed Candidates of the Montgomery County Democratic Party. These endorsements were decided back in January, publicly, and before that privately. It was done without hearing the candidates making a single stump speech, without a primary, by a small, self-selected group of the Montgomery County Democratic Party Central Committee. The “screening” is just for show as well- as the party’s inner circle- the people in charge of the “Friends and Family” plan in Montgomery County- take care of their own. These people control a lot of patronage jobs – from the Board of Elections (which is 100% patronage) to many jobs in the city and county that are hired directly by the officeholders. Being endorsed by the party gives you access to data and resources that aren’t available to other people in your party- like email lists, telephone banks, auto dialers, and donor lists. It’s like going to play monopoly- with 90% of the money.
In Dayton, it’s rare that anyone beats the party in the down-ticket (less hype races). A few have. Mostly in special elections, or by tricking the voters as Judge Bill Littlejohn did when his poll people handed out a slate card full of Dems- with his picture and name on it- even though he was running as a Republican. The party howled, but by then the damage was done- he’d won. Dean Lovelace only got elected because he jumped from the general election to a special election and beat two “name brand” party wives by a slim margin in a four-way race. I siphoned off some of the old girls’ votes to help him get there. Other than that- the party wins and likes to keep it that way.
The mayor’s race isn’t quite the same. Turner beat Dixon- by a slim 400 votes, partly because Dixon had caved on the landfill on the West Side- and partly because he just wasn’t that impressive on the campaign trail or in office. McLin beat Turner because Turner had pissed off a lot of people with his arrogance and his inability to share the credit- of course it didn’t matter since he’d already set his sights on Congress which gerrymandering had just opened the door for him to win. Leitzell overcame 10-1 odds in spending and 100-1 odds according to the political pundits- because McLin’s campaign assisted him with multiple mailings getting his name out- and that McLin hadn’t done much in 8 years other than change hats and glasses.
Endorsements by unions is another claim that seems to go along with winning. Mike Turner had an endorsement from the Dayton Firefighters when he ran against Clay Dixon. Whaley is proudly advertising she has their endorsement. The reality is the union that endorsed Turner had twice as many members- and they all lived in the city. No longer the case. The firefighters and the FOP didn’t even screen commission candidates in this race.
Labor union endorsements bring big money to a campaign- Whaley raked in multiple checks of $10K each. Even if the rank and file don’t agree with leadership’s pick- they know that they have to place the signs in their yards- for fear of retribution. Many will work to distribute lit, or man phone banks, or will stand outside the polls on election day because that’s what you do- but, it doesn’t mean that they necessarily will vote the union line. You find this out by knocking on doors and having candid conversations with people. The real damage is the money- candidates will always have to remember whom they owe as long as they hold office. The other damage is that campaigns get expensive quickly when you start talking handicapping- candidates are often judged by the money they’ve raised and people seem to think dollars raised somehow equals votes.
A lot of people looked at the “primary” results in May and seem to think that it’s an indication of the election coming this Tuesday. It’s not. First off- the election in May was a runoff election- to narrow the field because voters in Dayton are considered too stupid to make a decision among more than two choices. The time frame to campaign is compressed- 60 days- and the turnout incredibly low. These elections are typically decided by the people who are most connected to the party- or are politically dialed in.
This last election saw almost 2,000 previous “super voters”- who typically vote in every election- take a pass. The turnout of 10,000 was less than a third of the people who generally vote in these elections. And then there is the money- spending $50 per vote in the mayor’s race isn’t exactly something to brag about- it’s a sad commentary on what politics has become in this country – an auction to the highest bidder.
Gary Leitzell came up 238 votes short after spending around $2,000- or a dollar a vote. Knocking on a few more doors- or a robocall- or a mailing- and things would have changed. He hzs now backed A.J. Wagner and if all the Leitzell voters go for A.J., this race is a dead heat, despite the lopsided money. I’ve knocked on a lot of doors where people’s disdain for Whaley was clear. Very few have been anti-A.J.- unless they were either political insiders who don’t like the fact that he turned his back on the party way and ran against their pick- or, they had somehow been connected to him through the courts. It’s hard to vote for the guy who put your baby-daddy in the pen.
As for me and my “endorsements”- I screened with the UAW, AFSCME, DEA- telling all, that I’d accept an endorsement, but not the money that comes with it. None endorsed me. The DEA endorsed both Wagner and Whaley which is kind of counter-productive, but this isn’t an organization that brings big money to the table or has contract negotiations with city hall. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve ever seen them involved in a commission race- but, the fact that their former leader, lobbyist Jeff Mims, is running may be the reason. Despite my plan to get all DPS students online with iPads and citywide wifi- I’m not their guy.
I’m not a conventional candidate by any means- so, of course, I do my “endorsements” differently- asking people who know me, who are known in the community to do short video testimonials- typically- one take- no editing- to share their opinion of me. They don’t sugarcoat my personality- which is often called “abrasive”- but, if you want anything to be finely polished- you know sandpaper is the tool you use. Get used to it. Pouring honey on things makes it sweet- but it also makes things sticky- and in politics sticky isn’t good- see congress today for the mess they’ve got us into.
Each video is about 2 minutes- plus or minus. The most recent and final one- is Gary Leitzell, endorsing me- watch and draw your own conclusions: